“He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there
"A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin."—Proverbs 26:27, KJV
Peter Pettigrew sat in the shadows at the top of the stairs to the 6th year boys’ dorm, his cloak wadded up in his lap. He peered down at his friends, James, Sirius, and Remus, who were waiting for him down in the common room. They stood near the portrait hole, chatting quietly. Probably about me, he thought bitterly. Every so often one of them would glance up the stairs, but Peter knew they couldn’t see him. He’d sat like this many times before, just watching, always watching. At last, Sirius ran out of patience and bounded for the stairs, and Peter scrambled to his feet and threw his cloak over one shoulder with practiced carelessness, they way he’d seen Sirius do it. It looked dashing and easy when Sirius did it, but it didn’t seem to have quite the same effect with Peter, though he thought if he kept practicing, maybe someday it would.
"There you are! I thought you might have gotten lost! C’mon, hurry up!" Sirius called when he saw Peter. Peter managed a weak grin, and Sirius ran back down the stairs, jumping the last two steps.
Peter scrambled down the stairs after him. He took a flying leap at the third step up, trying to mimic Sirius’s athletic grace. He jumped all right, but landed wrong, twisting his legs so that he stumbled forward awkwardly as he tried to regain his balance. He ran straight into a small wooden table, knocking it over with a terrifying crash and falling on top of it. He felt it break beneath his weight as sharp splinters dug into his sides. He tried to rise, but his robes or cloak or something was tangled with the remains of the table, and with every movement he only entangled himself further. Why was he always so clumsy? The others glared down at him, and he felt his face go hot with embarrassment. He squirmed under their gazeThTheTh .
"What’s going on down here? Why aren’t you in bed?"
Peter looked up from his awkward position to see Constance Greysen, the Head Girl, standing at the top of the stairs to the girls’ dorms, looking suspicious.
"I—w-was erm-we w-were—" Peter stammered. Just like everyone else, Constance ignored him, and looked at the other three instead. It was as if he wasn’t even there. He felt he ought to be angry about this, but he was just relieved. James and Sirius would defend him now, as they had always done.
"We were just heading up to bed. We just finished a game of Exploding Snap," James filled in, giving her a winning smile. He gestured towards a nearby table, where some cards a few second years had been playing with were still smoking slightly.
"Oh…all right," she said, blushing a bit. Peter looked on jealously. Even though Constance was a year older, she wasn’t immune to James’s charm. She turned and went back up to her dorm.
Sirius hauled Peter up by his collar and fixed the table with a wave of his wand. "How could you be so clumsy!" he hissed at Peter. Peter hung his head and stared at his scuffed shoes. Being scolded by Sirius always made him feel two inches tall, but he didn’t have the guts to do anything but take it and wait for Remus to rescue him or for Sirius to get bored with it. Sometimes he felt he hated Sirius. Sometimes he hated himself.
"It was an accident, Sirius, calm down," Remus said soothingly, smiling at Peter as if to commiserate with him.
Peter returned the smile weakly, trying to be grateful to Remus and to not let his hatred of Sirius show on his face. Sirius was always so impatient, so quick to point out all he did wrong. It was Sirius who was turning the others against him. Someday things would be different, he consoled himself. Someday Sirius would be the one to screw everything up, and he, Peter, would be the hero who fixed Sirius’s mistakes.
"Is it safe?" James’s voice broke into his thoughts. "Let’s go! We’ve still got the third floor and the dungeons to do!" He climbed through the portrait hole. Sirius and Remus quickly followed, jumping the short distance and landing on their feet with cat-like grace. Peter followed, tempted to jump as well, but not quite daring after his failed attempt earlier. He sat down on the threshold of the portrait and clambered out awkwardly, ignoring Remus’ proffered hand with disdain. He didn’t need Remus’s help! He didn’t need anyone’s help!
An unpleasant little voice hissed in his mind that he did need their help. He was a weak, worthless, pathetic little thing, and he would be nothing without them. Peter cringed. He’d heard this same voice too many times, saying the same thing over and over, berating him for even trying to be like them, for ruining their plans, for just existing. He cowered inside like a cornered rat.
"It’s not true!" he pleaded, desperate to silence the voice, though he knew it wouldn’t help.
The others turned to stare at him, startled at his sudden outburst. Peter gasped. Had he said that aloud? He must’ve! He stood there opening and shutting his mouth in horror, while the other looked at him as if he’d grown a second head.
Sirius opened his mouth to tell him off, but he never got the chance. Remus whispered fiercely, "Not now! C’mon! In here!" he ducked into an empty classroom and slipped into the shadows, pulling Sirius with him, away from Peter. James tugged the still stunned Peter into the shadows with the others.
They sat crouched in a corner in the dark, scarcely daring to breathe as they listened to Filch’s shuffling footsteps approaching. After a few tense moments, the footsteps passed and faded away, and James declared it safe. They cautiously proceeded up to the third floor, where work on the Marauder’s Map continued.
Peter lay awkwardly on the stone floor of the east wing of the third floor. He was acting as lookout. Again. It used to be that they took turns being the lookout, but after a few little mistakes performing the tricky magic always involved in the pranks, looking out somehow became his job. It was all their fault. They had never showed him the right way to do any of it. They taught him the wrong incantations and told him the wrong thing to do. Then he remembered how the others had wasted hours trying to teach him the spells he was too stupid to learn. He squirmed on the floor a bit, wishing he were smarter, braver, and more talented. Anything but the pathetic git he was now.
He glanced up and down the dark corridor, but didn’t see anything. Not that he had expected to. Nobody ever came up here. He wasn’t even sure why they were mapping this part, except that James wanted it to be complete. He wanted to be back in his warm bed in Gryffindor Tower, where he could imagine that he was the greatest of them all, instead of the least—the smallest, the stupidest, the most cowardly.
He inclined his ear in their direction, listening to the soft rise and fall of their voices, trying to take comfort from their presence. They were his friends, he told himself firmly. They always defended him, and they never left him out of anything. He was one of the great Marauders!
"Hey Remus, come have a look at this!" James whispered to his friend, who was sitting against a wall, resting.
Peter watched enviously as Remus rose and went over to where James and Sirius were standing. Why was it always Remus they called on to help? Why not him? He could help! Didn’t he keep watch for them every night? It wasn’t fair! He looked on enviously as they stared at the map and listened to Remus’s suggestions.
Fear gripped Peter. What would happen when they finished the map? Would they even need him anymore? What would he do without them? He needed all of them, even Sirius. Without them, he was nothing. They had never wanted to be friends with him. He had just never left them alone, desperate to acquire some of their reflected glory. He had simpered and flattered and praised, hoping that somehow his adoration would make him acceptable to them. Merlin knows he had no redeeming qualities of his own. He was just dull, stupid Peter Pettigrew.
With much difficulty, he quieted his mind. He had to make sure they still needed him, still liked him. Tears stung his eyes, and he swallowed hard and tried to will the drops back into his eyes. If he cried only a little bit more, his eyes would be bright red, and they would know. They hated it when he cried. He was such a baby. He pressed his hands against his eyes until they hurt and listened to them again to distract himself, hearing James’ and Sirius’ and Remus’ voices blending and separating, a bit like an orchestra or a song.
A quiet fear crept up and took hold of him. What if they were talking about him? What if they were saying how glad they would be to get rid of him at last?
He thought for a moment. He wanted to stand up and tell them off, but one look from Sirius would quell him. His insides writhed like snakes at the very thought of it. No, he had to be sneakier. Stealth had always been his strong point.
He belly-crawled closer, taking care to be perfectly silent. They never noticed. Worry subsided as pride took its place. This was what he was good at! To go unseen among them, to know their secrets and their plans. He crept a bit closer, listening carefully.
"Nearly done here!"
"Yeah, it does. All we have left now is the North Tower. Let’s try to finish this floor tonight."
"What do you say, Moony, are you up f- Peter! What are you doing over here?" Sirius asked, startled.
Peter scrambled to his feet, giving a loud squeak. "I—I just wanted…wanted to see how it was coming!"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "On the floor?"
Remus put his hand on Sirius’ shoulder. "Drop it," he said quietly. "Look, we’re all tired, let’s just call it a night. We’re nearly done, so a few more nights won’t make much difference." His voice was overly cheerful.
James agreed, looking at Peter pensively, and Sirius nodded reluctantly, frustrated, obviously wanting to stay and finish the map They returned to their dorm in silence.
"Not yet!" Sirius hissed at the others, watching the map intently. He continued to stare at it as everyone else stood silent, waiting for him to tell them when it was safe to leave the classroom.
"Ok, we’re good. He went the other way!" Sirius grinned. "On to the Charms classroom!"
They sauntered out of Transfiguration classroom, not bothering to look to see if the hall was clear and not even making any effort to be quiet. They didn’t have to-- the map told them that there wasn’t anyone within earshot.
In the Charms classroom, Peter sat on a desk, fiddling with a quill someone had left and watching sullenly as James performed a tricky little charm on the black board to make it translate everything written on it into Sanskrit. It was their goal for the night to do this in all the classrooms. Their pranks just kept getting bigger and more ambitious. Before they had the map, they could do only one classroom, or two at most. Now they wanted to do them all. Peter shivered a bit. How far would they go?
He wished he had the courage to speak up and tell them they were foolish to try to do so much. He knew the blame would be immediately pinned on them, and he hated being in trouble with the teachers almost as much as he hated trouble with his friends. But he wouldn’t say anything. He was such a coward, he thought spitefully. Sometimes he wondered if his placement in Gryffindor had been a cruel joke by the Sorting Hat-- if every so often it got a kind of a thrill out of placing a student in the least appropriate house.
He hated these pranks, hated skulking around in the moonlit corridors and classrooms in the dead of night. The shadows seemed to follow him and reach for him with dark, icy fingers. The slightest noises sounded like footsteps behind him, trailing him, just waiting for him to fall behind. Even now, sitting in the classroom surrounded by his friends’ laughter, cold sweat plastered his hair to his forehead and he willed himself not to turn around to look for a phantom he knew wasn’t there. He focused on his friends, trying to take comfort from their nonchalance and concentrating with all his might on their easy chatter.
James and Sirius were discussing how to leave an appropriate signature without making it so obvious that they immediately got in trouble. Remus stood next to them with an appreciative smile on his face, occasionally glancing down at the map.
Peter watched enviously as they had fun scribbling things onto the board and watching them become unreadable. He tore the tiny feathers off the quill one by one, listening to their laughter and wishing he had the map. At least he would have something to do then, since he was no good at Charms. They had him keeping watch the first few times, when they still weren’t sure the map worked exactly right, but after whoever had the map had noticed someone coming long before he had, he had quit keeping a look out. No one had seemed to notice. Or care. He wondered what they would do if he just didn’t come along one night. If, instead of bounding out of bed when they roused him for a midnight prank, he just rolled over and went back to sleep. Would they leave him? Probably. They’d probably be glad he wasn’t coming.
He couldn’t take this much longer. Something had to change. Without the map, they would like him again. He would be important to them once more. They would need him. Need him like he needed them. There was only one thing to do. He had to get rid of the map.
Late in the night in the empty common room, Peter held the now completed Marauder’s map above the bright blue flame from his wand, watching the smoke rising from underneath the paper with deep satisfaction, trying to ignore the undercurrent of fear running through him. This would fix everything, he assured himself. Once he did this, they would need him again. Everything would go back to being the way it was…
Why wasn’t it catching? It was just parchment, it should be a pile of ash by now. He quenched the flame at the end of his wand with a quick flick, and turned the map over. There wasn’t a single mark on it! Not even the slightest smoke stain! They’d fire proofed it! They’d fire proofed it and they never even told him! Horror swept over him. What else hadn’t they told him? What other secrets were they hiding? They’d left him out again!
Panicking, he threw his wand down and attempted to tear the map into tiny pieces. He ripped at it with all his might. He might as well have been attempting to tear metal for all the good it did. A sudden idea came to him, and he crumpled it up in his hand.
There! He had finally gotten rid of it. Now he could just toss it in the wastebasket like any other piece of trash, and nobody would notice. He felt movement in his hand and looked down. The parchment was slowly but surely unfolding, like a flower coming into bloom. It was indestructible!
He stared at the map in disbelief. It seemed to taunt him as it gracefully unfolded, reminding him of everything they could do that he couldn’t, mocking him with the fact that they had made the map indestructible without his knowledge. They didn’t trust him. They never had. All he ever did was follow them, admire them, look up to them, and this was what he got—secrets and lies. He had been a look out for them, he’d saved them from getting into trouble countless times, and now, they were replacing him. Replacing him with this—a map, a glorified sheet of parchment.
If he could only get rid of it! Then they’d have to keep him! And someday, someday he would tell them what he had done, and they would praise his cleverness and beg his forgiveness for having ever left him out, and maybe, if they were very nice, he would be their friend again. A foolish smile spread over his face, and he turned his attention back to the map.
He looked at the map contemplatively, trying to subdue the fear that always came when he thought about defying his friends. But he had to do it. If he didn’t, he would be alone all the time. He studied the map with renewed determination. He couldn’t destroy it, so the only other alternative was to hide it. But where? He looked around the torch lit common room, assessing each potential hiding place and rejecting them all. This was too public. Someone would find it and one of them would recognize it, and they would know what he had done. The dormitory? No, that wouldn’t work either. There were no good hiding spots there. He thought for a moment. It had to be in someplace they would avoid. The Slytherin common room? That was a good idea. They’d never even think to look for it there! They couldn’t even get in! Neither could he, he realized dejectedly. Furthermore, he might want to be rid of the map, but he didn’t want the Slytherins to have it either.
He sat staring at the map, keeping a careful eye on the little dots in the Gryffindor dormitories. Just then, two little dots in a distant part of the castle began to move, and he saw the solution.
Peter stood in the empty common room and looked down at the map with great satisfaction and a shiver of fear. After weeks of careful study and thought, this was the night he would put his plan in action. He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. The only problem was, if the plan worked as well as he hoped it would, no one would ever know. He comforted himself with the thought that someday he’d be able to tell them about what he had done, and then they would see how much they had underestimated him. They would ask his forgiveness, and beg him to tell them what he had done with the map, how he had broken their careful charms on it. Eventually, if they were very nice, he might tell them.
He paused for a last check in the mirror and was slightly startled by his own reflection. He had charmed his hair black and had attached blocks to the bottoms of his shoes to make him appear taller. His voluminous cloak covered his less than athletic physique. At a distance he could easily be mistaken for James or Sirius, or at least he hoped so. He hadn’t dared try to brew Polyjuice Potion. He trembled a bit, thinking of what would happen if he were caught like this, wondering how he would explain his strange get up to the others. Maybe he should just quit now. Just go back to bed and forget the whole thing. No! He had to do this. And besides, he didn’t intend to get close enough for anyone to identify him.
He stared at his unfamiliar reflection for a moment, wishing for a brief moment that he could at least get some credit, that he could go as his own familiar self. But he had reasoned this out a long time ago. Nobody thought he could be entrusted with anything of importance, so if he dropped the blank Marauder’s Map, it would be assumed that it was an ordinary empty sheet of parchment. But if James or Sirius dropped it, it had to be valuable.
He crept out of the common room, map in one hand, and James’s Invisibility Cloak in the other. He had to be sure he could get back safely.
The deserted stone corridors seemed eerily quiet and lonely without the presence of his friends. He could almost believe that the silence was listening, and he didn’t like it. His imagination saw demons in the darkest corners and heard whispers in the gentle wind that blew through an open window. He shuddered, trying not to look too closely at anything. Fear chilled him, and he began to tremble slightly. For a brief, agonizing moment, he considered turning back. He wanted desperately to return to his warm bed in Gryffindor Tower and fall back to sleep to the sound of his friends’ even breathing.
He gritted his teeth and wrapped his cloak more tightly around him. He had to do this! He had to! If he didn’t, they would abandon him, replacing him with this thing, this map. He’d be alone like this all the time. All the time!
He opened the map and peered down at it. Filch was patrolling the third floor, near the library. Peter clutched the map in a grip that would have destroyed any other sheet of parchment, and made his way towards the staircase, looking straight ahead and straining to hear over the blood pounding in his ears.
Hogwarts seemed bigger and lonelier and scarier now than it ever had in all his six years here. It wasn’t that he’d never been out at night, just that he’d never been out alone. He hadn’t realized how much his friends’ cheery presence bolstered his courage. He continued on with renewed determination, hating his dependence on them and hating them for making him so helpless. He saw now how they’d always held him back. They liked to keep him weak, it made them feel powerful. For a moment he paused, hesitating. He would take the map back! Let them use it! If they didn’t need him, he didn’t need them…but he would never be able to do that. He was far too weak and pitiful. He walked on, hating himself with every fiber of his being.
Nearing the library, he shook himself out of his musings and studied the map. Filch was approaching. He backed up a bit, positioning himself so that he would just barely be seen. He threw his hood back with trembling hands so that his black hair showed, nearly dropping the map. He cleared the map and waited anxiously for Filch to pass.
"Potter! I see you Potter!"
With that, Peter threw the map towards Filch and ran as fast as he could, desperately trying to ignore his echoing footsteps, which sounded to him like an army of prefects and professors chasing him. He ducked into a classroom and threw the invisibility cloak on and held his breath. After a moment, he heard Filch pass, and he collapsed onto the floor into a puddle of fear, tears and sweat mingling on his grubby face. He didn’t know how long he sat there, trying to recover his courage, but it seemed like hours. All he knew was that he didn’t ever want to go wandering around alone at night again. In the end, it was the thought of what would happen if he weren’t in his dorm in the morning that motivated him, and he ducked out, choking down his fear, and ran the rest of the way back to Gryffindor Tower. He knew he was being careless and making too much noise, but he didn’t care. He could scarcely believe he had gone through with it, that the map was actually gone. He stopped in the common room, gasping for breath, and muttered the counter charm that would return his hair to its usual dirty brown. He had done it, really done it. The whole thing felt almost surreal, and it was hard to believe that it wasn’t just a dream. But the map was gone and now everything would return to normal. Smiling a bit now, he crept up to his dorm, returned the Invisibility Cloak and climbed into bed. It was a long time before he went to sleep.
A few nights later, Peter awoke to the sound of drawers being opened and slammed shut. He smiled and tried to keep his breathing even so they’d think he was still asleep.
"Sirius, what did you do with the map?"
"Map? I didn’t do anything with it, you were keeping it."
"Yeah, but I can’t find it. Remus?"
Remus yawned. "Don’t look at me."
"Go wake Peter, maybe he knows where it is."
Peter lay back and closed his eyes. Remus pulled the bed curtains back and shook him awake. "Have you seen the map, Pete?"
"James has it," he mumbled and rolled over. Remus pulled the curtains shut and Peter opened his eyes again and lay back, listening and trying to be pleased. What if someone had seen him? What if they somehow knew what he had done and they were just tormenting him? His heart pounded into his throat, and he willed himself to calm down. There was no way they could know. Could they?
"You probably just got it mixed up with some regular parchment," Remus assured James. A trunk slammed open.
"You two check these, and I’ll get the rest."
Three voices muttered the password over and over, and Peter suppressed a nervous snigger. This was better than he’d thought it would be.
Fifteen minutes later, the dorm had been torn apart and every blank sheet of parchment checked. Peter had been woken, and he got up cheerfully and helped them look, checking every possible spot with unwonted thoroughness.
James was the last to admit that it was lost. They sat on their beds and tried to decide what to do next.
"The term is almost over, it’s too late to make another," Remus pointed out.
James and Sirius reluctantly agreed. "I guess we’ll just have to do without and hope it turns up," James said.
"It doesn’t really matter," Peter piped up eagerly. This was his chance. He’d been waiting for this moment ever since he had decided to get rid of the map. "I can keep watch again, and I promise I’ll do better than I did before, we don’t need the map!" He knew he sounded like an overeager little kid, but he was so excited he couldn’t help it. His plan had worked! And they hadn’t even suspected him!
James and Sirius exchanged a look, and even Remus looked doubtful. Hatred surged within him. He had been right, the map had made to replace him. But he couldn’t give in to his hatred now, not while he still needed them. He hated having to rely so much upon them, hated them for always talking about him behind his back, hated them for keeping secrets from him.
"Sure, Peter, that’ll be great," Remus said at last with a small, condescending smile. Peter pasted a stiff smile on his face and thanked him quietly in a tight, forced voice, assuring him again that he would be better than the map. The four left the dorm in silence, Peter bringing up the rear as usual. He could hear James and Sirius discussing how they would have to scale back their plans for the night. All because of him. Hatred filled him once again, setting his heart on fire. His fingers itched to strangle them, one by one. But he pushed the feeling away. Now wasn’t the time. He couldn’t do it now, not while he still needed them so much. But someday-- someday he would be powerful, and have powerful friends. Then he wouldn’t need them. They would need him. They would be dependent upon him for everything, even their very lives. A twisted grin spread across his face. He could wait. His time would come. There were rumors of powerful forces arising. Forces not even the almighty James and Sirius would be able to withstand…maybe his time would be coming sooner than he thought.
Remus turned back to see what was keeping him. "Are you all right, Peter? You look a bit…strange."
Peter forced his face into a pleasant smile. "I’m fine, Remus…I’m just fine."
A/N: This is a one shot, there will be no additional chapters nor sequels. I had fun writing this, but I don’t foresee writing another MWPP anytime soon. Hope you enjoyed it.
Unending thanks to Aristyar, who beta read and re-beta read this at least 3 times.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of this, don’t sue me.